April 16, 2012
Congressman John Conyers Jr.
Congressional District 14th
669 Federal Bldg.
231 W. Lafayette
Detroit, Michigan 48226
Re: Amer Bill 4118
Dear Congressman Conyers:
We are elated by the good news that you have agreed to consider introducing legislation in the US Congress based on the 2010 Michigan Amer Law HB 4118. Signed into law by Governor Granholm, the bill requires that any child that has been removed from the custody of their birth parents for any reason, the priority will be to place them with a willing and able relative.
Foster care children endure tremendous emotional and physical challenges when they are removed from their parents. The continuity of their cultural and religious traditions must be a fundamental right and should be given the highest importance in the placement proceedings by family judges and the relevant state agencies who must decide the best interest of the child. Every effort must be made to place the children with a willing family member who can be expected to provide the necessary cultural, emotional, and religious nourishment the child needs.
Sadly, while it sounds logical if not elementary to do so, family court judges have occasionally but most tragically erred by placing children in a non-compatible family, vastly different in their religious and cultural traditions. The very concept of “the best interest” of the child would soon turn into a tragic mistake of irreversible implications. The case of the Amer family is only one such example.
Dear Congressman Conyers, we here in New Jersey, have seen similar cases to the tragic one of the Amer family in Michigan. We at the American Arab Forum, have taken a special interest in the case of Abdulrahman Khalil who was removed from his family, and after being placed with another abusive family the child not only lost his loving father but lost his name, faith and culture. As in Michigan, we are now working on legislation in New Jersey to address the procedural and legal voids in our current laws. Currently, we have a bill in the New Assembly (and a similar one in the Senate) enjoying the bipartisan support that gives foster care children the right to be placed with close family members and if that is not possible, then with a family of the same faith and cultural tradition.
As America becomes increasingly more culturally and religiously diverse, the need for such a bill will only become more urgent and appropriate. We wholeheartedly laud you for your decision to introduce a bill to address this important matter. We stand ready to aid you and your staff in any way possible to advance this bill and to encourage our New Jersey congressional representatives to support your expected bill. We are ready to appear in joint forums or to provide testimony in Washington.
We are attaching for your consideration, our published columns on this subject and a link to the NJ Bill.
Again, our gratitude.
Dr. Aref Assaf
American Arab Forum
- Bill A 251- in the New Jersey Assemblyrents for any reason, priority will be to place them with a willing and able relative. The perseverance of Ahmed and Rehab Amer in transforming their own tragedy into a relief for other families is humbling and a testimony to their faith and love for their children. This bill will help countless families, and in particular families who are vulnerable and not familiar with the protective service system.
Latin Americans for Social and Economic Development, Inc. is committed to advocating for justice on behalf of all people. LA SED believes in the work of the Amer family and is in full support of making this bill a national law. For more information please contact me at firstname.lastname@example.org or (313) 554-2025. Thanking you in advance for your support.
Blanca Almanza, Executive MSW
LA SED, Executive Director